In August 2019, the intrepid Winter family spent one week of their summer holiday volunteering on a turtle conservation project in Costa Rica. Here they tell us about their family volunteer holiday and how it worked for them:
“We initially booked this trip because we are outdoorsy people and love doing adventurous activities together, but also because our children are growing up in a very privileged part of the world and we want to teach them that THEY are the future and that they play an integral part in what happens to our planet and its biodiversity.
Children must SEE to understand and they must EXPERIENCE to become passionate. This is exactly what our trip to Costa Rica achieved.
We have all come back, changed. Not just relaxed, revived and closer as a family, but our perspectives have changed. We realise that there are bigger fish to fry in the world and that small things here in our sacred bubble are simply “first world problems” and that we’d rather focus on the more important things in life.
Your guidance and information was spot-on and to the letter. We knew exactly what to expect, each step of the way. That was brilliant!
The accommodation in San Jose for the first night is indeed a hostel-type (not your manicured Hilton hotels, bit noisier), but it as clean and tidy and served a purpose. The transfer journey from San Jose to the beach site was a real adventure – taking 2 public buses with local people and really down to earth. But probably one of our easiest transfers with our kids, due to the many things they could look at and experience.
The beach, community and volunteer team was just so welcoming and approachable. The cabinas we stayed in were basic, but comfortable. No-one can run away from the extreme humidity and stickiness because of the combination of heat, insect repellent and suncream (;-)), but it’s part of the fun and you just get used to it! 😉
The food prepared by the lovely and friendly local woman was amazing! We ate so well and felt pretty healthy from all the fruit and veg! Most of the nights were local dishes (tortilla/plantane chips, salad, veg, rice, beans, fresh juice, chicken), but they even made an effort for the Westerners and brought us lovely pizzas and spaghetti bolognese! Sitting outside at the rancho with all the other volunteers for each lunch/dinner was really homely and relaxing. We saw so much wildlife just from that spot – armadillos, iguanas, birds, squirrels, hummingbirds to name just a few!
The “work” at the project was very reasonable and you had lots of free time. During the days our responsibilities ranged from zero to rain gauge check (x 2 daily), hatchery watch (every hour, half-day) or cleaning of equipment/ kitchen, rancho clean/sweep. Real easy stuff.
We were told that our children have been the youngest volunteers at this project ( 5yrs old), but they were absolute troopers! We warned them about eating whatever you get, waking up in the night to go “save” the turtles and how we have to keep ourselves busy and they took it in their stride!
During the day we had the whole beautiful 3km stretch of beach for ourselves, went on day trips or just had a nap! The day trips were: jungle trekking with an experienced local who also showed us his greenhouse and allowed the kids to plant seeds for new trees. The other trip was to the mangrove swamp where we went out on a boat trip, learned about conservation projects at the Cocos Islands (hammerhead sharks and more turtles) and had delicious fish prepaed by the local fishermen’s wives.
The cherry on top was obviously the nighttime patrols. We were super blessed to have witnessed every part of the life cycle of the Olive Ridley turtle and even had the chance to see a green turtle! Seeing a mummy turtle crawl her way out of the ocean, under a starry sky, and being present during her birth process is simply magical.
To assist in the egg collection or triangulating the nest for research/monitoring purposes were fascinating and humbling. We were very lucky to also witness 2 natural nests hatch and got to see the cutest little hatchlings make their way down to the ocean. A memory I will never forget and one that literally brought me to tears in the moment.
We loved every minute of it and really enjoyed the absence of internet, reception, modern amenities and stress. Thanks again for adding value to our lives and making this holiday possible. Highly recommended!